Historian professor Khoo Kay Kim in November 2009 in the China Press (titles in bold):





[In translation]

Rote learning stifles creativity, knowledge progress

Chinese primary schools are mere copycats

He (Khoo Kay Kim) said teaching in the Chinese schools system produces classes of graduates dedicated to plagiarism, awesome in this respect, but are nothing more than an Oxford dictionary pocket issue trawled inside out.

“These students have no creativity. Look at the Chinese school children, how many are famous scientists or can innovate on products?”

Khoo wasn’t just wrong. He had fashioned a lie then, with duplicity and disingenuousness, taunted the public and newspaper readers to prove him wrong, knowing well (unless he’s stupid) that nobody would take up the offer nor could they.

In Khoo’s calculation, an education system is only good if it produces (a) ‘famous’ scientists and (b) innovating products. Khoo’s criteria for a good system wasn’t just bizarre; so was his logic: it meant that that if there were no Chinese-educated ‘famous’ scientist nor successful product commercialization, then those people had graduated from the failed, ‘copycat’ Chinese schools. Worse was his time frame: In the pre and immediate post Merdeka years, Malaysian education, whether in Chinese or English, was in a bad state. People then simply had more urgent matters of life and death to attend to

Here (and this isn’t the first time), below, is to prove Khoo wrong, a liar and a racist to boot because, as an Anglophile raised in the English language, he had only the Chinese-educated for his target. He didn’t dare touch the Malays nor the national school system. BBC had produced the table below from 2015 PISA statistics compiled for the best performers in science and mathematics by the OECD after testing more than half a million 15-year-old students in 76 countries. Again, the East Asian countries using script, not Roman alphabets, triumphed. The previous, 2012 results are here.

2015 PISA mathematics and science scores, by country ranking.

1. Singapore
2. Hong Kong
3. South Korea
4. Japan (joint)
4. Taiwan (joint)
6. Finland
7. Estonia
8. Switzerland
9. Netherlands
10. Canada
11. Poland
12. Vietnam
13. Germany
14. Australia
15. Ireland
16. Belgium
17. New Zealand
18. Slovenia
19. Austria
20. United Kingdom
21. Czech Republic
22. Denmark
23. France
24. Latvia
25. Norway
26. Luxembourg
27. Spain
28. Italy (joint)
28. United States (joint)
30. Portugal
31. Lithuania
32. Hungary
33. Iceland
34. Russia
35. Sweden
36. Croatia
37. Slovak Republic
38. Ukraine
39. Israel
40. Greece
41. Turkey
42. Serbia
43. Bulgaria
44. Romania
45. UAE
46. Cyprus
47. Thailand
48. Chile
49. Kazakhstan
50. Armenia
51. Iran
52. Malaysia
53. Costa Rica
54. Mexico
55. Uruguay
56. Montenegro
57. Bahrain
58. Lebanon
59. Georgia
60. Brazil
61. Jordan
62. Argentina
63. Albania
64. Tunisia
65. Macedonia
66. Saudi Arabia
67. Colombia
68. Qatar
69. Indonesia
70. Botswana
71. Peru
72. Oman
73. Morocco
74. Honduras
75. South Africa
76. Ghana

Because the Chinese schools were never, politically, administratively and financially, considered a part of the Malaysian mainstream, most of the Malaysian student participants in the 2015 PISA tests were from the Malay, national school system. The mean performance or OECD average fall between the 23-to-26 rankings. The US has lots of ‘famous’ scientists but their students do below average. The Philippines and South Africa have lots of English and are at the bottom of the pile; they are a write-off, like Malaysia.

Contrast them with the Chinese education systems, notably in Hong Kong and Taiwan that don’t produce ‘famous’ scientists. Japan and South Korea have traditionally modeled their systems on the Chinese imperial system, and until modern times used hanzi, the Chinese script. Singapore is a case in point about this: given improved economic conditions and access, the Chinese-educated can do remarkably well.

For a white-man copycat, neither famous nor any good intellectually, Khoo is a failed educator; it isn’t too late he goes back to school — Chinese school — and start all over again.

Mana otak? Mahathir thoughts (above) in War Monger Ang (below).

Like her Malaiyoo-counterparts Ahi Attan, Syed Akbar Ali, et al, Helen Ang sees herself standing above the ground, above the fray, a (Malaysian) reporter’s paragon of virtue, compassionate, fair-minded and rational, an island beacon in a sea of burning ruins.

Now, she is desperate for war or, actually, more war. From reason to war requires simply an about face turn — it’s as easy as that — which she has amply demonstrated she is capable of.

The word ‘war’ is, of course, rhetorical in that, it is used primarily for effect, used on more than the occasions by polemicist (like herself), often by American political theorists and politicians, and less so by military men who have actually seen war. Ang hasn’t seen war. (Or has she?) Perhaps, when a Japanese soldier rapes her and her niece, doing a two-in-one after doses of Viagra, in front of her mother’s Penang grave to boot, then with a short sword disembowel her uncle right there, she might just reconsider the word ‘war’ and think hard again about invoking Otto von Bismarck.

Mahathir Mohamad is already at war with Najib Razak. His ostensible purpose is to save Umno. There is overwhelming evidence to say Najib’s tenure has made a mess of government and inter-ethnic social relations, especially concerning religions, and all that was in spite of his stated intentions to the contrary.

But how does replacing Najib alone ‘save’ Umno or even ‘save Malaysia’ (words from that stupid old man named Lim Kit Siang)? Any answer to that question has to assume that the country’s ills are not systemic — the result of deep-rooted causes drawn from and affecting every facet and level of society.

But they are instead the result of arbitrary, not carefully-considered, actions of a tyrant who has had his way without regards for others or for the country; there is nothing behind Najib’s work at all, no history, no prior economic and religious policies, no ketuanan ideology, no Islamisation, no Anwar Ibrahim, nothing.

It is purely the work of one man, Najib Razak, in person a reckless spendthrift, ordering everyone around. Neither Ahmad Badawi nor Mahathir contributed anything to the present “exceptional circumstances” that Helen says warrant her war mongering she’d call “aggressive actions”.

Such assumptions deny the evidences: Mahathir, for example, was a spendthrift himself if it’s recalled how he deliberately diverted enormous national resources into his gargantuan projects, most failing afterwards, and how he, from the ground up, emptied the social, goodwill capital into his pet political, social and religious ideologies.

We know better, of course, because there is the benefit of hindsight. Which is the reason why men with good intentions (and Kit Siang isn’t one of them) but with neither skills nor intellectual capability are bad for the country. Zaid Ibrahim is one of them. Just because Mahathir whistles to a tune he likes, that is dump Najib, one finds Zaid singing Mahathir’s praises.

This is dangerous. Why? Because deposing Najib to save Umno does nothing to turn away from the systemic failures. Malaysia has to be first saved to save Umno. Malaysia has had so much of Mahathirism, that single man’s legacy is near certain to make futile the work of a thousand Najibs, spendthrift or not spendthrift. Zaid still has the old, used-up Umno (and Malaysian) puerile and empty political thinking that says, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Back now to war monger Ang, Zaid’s former employee, whose purpose of going to war (against the DAP, it seems, rather than against bigotry and overspending) is grounded on neither moral nor material objectives. On the one hand she has argued that Umno’s partner, the MCA, is not to be counted in the war effort because it doesn’t represent the Chinese. On the other, she says the ‘traditional, heartland’ Malays have also abandoned Umno; the Barisan is therefore a loss cause. That is to say, the battles are already a loss before the war even began.

Restated: Helen wants war because she can’t stand the DAP people. (And so do many other Malaysians who don’t necessarily go to war.) “Sooo sneaky” the DAP, she says.

This line of contradictory thinking pervades the politics of Malaysia; it’s very personal. It equally explains Mahathir’s bouts of arguments and criticisms against Najib because not once — not even once — does the man shows how things could change for the better, what road is preferred, why, where to, and lead by whom. The larger concern is a return to Mahathirism.

Helen’s capacity for infantile thoughts and inane arguments are shared by Mahathir and Zaid and Najib, and these were their undoing. It’s Malaysia’s fault as well: Neither ethical nor intellectual goodness.

Respectfully, Shit On You

In the war between Najib Razak and Mahathir Mohamad, much of their battles are fought online and over the mass media, and less on the ground among party divisions, regional and inter-party affiliations. This is telling, especially coming from Mahathir; it shows he has no mobilization, no masses, no solid springboard to do a coup.

More tellingly is to watch those ex-journalists setting up camps for one side or the other. Journalists because they think themselves as exemplary virtues of sane, impartial and unemotional people; paragons of pure, unbiased reason.

Now, to choose between Najib and Mahathir gets tricky still. Tricky? Because most of these scribes and hacksters grew up and built a career on the back of a government administration so that, in their heydays, when an Umno chief tells Kadir Jasin or Helen Ang or KTemoc (absconded to Australia) to jump, they will ask only ‘how high’.

Here’s Ahi Attan aka Rocky Bru having to choose side because it will be Najib’s fault once Barisan flops: if Pakatan wins then Barisan’s cover on its collective sins will be lifted and those people will go down.  What’s Ahi to do? Accept Mahathir’s staggering rationale or keep the faith with Najib. He does neither and says this, in near-weeping tones: “I’m just a blogger and I don’t cover up…

Annie is not a journalist, but she is too fearful of differing from journalist-bloggers (which is strange, of course). So, when journalists say they are neutral then she, too, is neutral: “I am out of the equation and now just a bystander or at most an observer.” It might be on her mind yet: Why can’t we have politics without taking sides? Poor Annie….

Helen Ang, ex-Star, ex-New Straits Times, sums up the attitudes and thinking of these journalist-bloggers. It says in her post title: To disagree with some hotshot, even if the disagreement is banal, she has to beg, and then to beg she has to be respectful when begging. And what was the disagreement demanding her respect and her begging? Answer: Whether the curry after she had eaten it was made out of blue or green chillies. Watch out for Helen on a PJ sidewalk squatting with a filthy sarong and a bowl in hand, and a sign that reads: I respectfully beg for your money….

And KTemoc…. He is a class unto himself, stirring his own shakes.

From a 2010, June 6, posting

Lynching the Chinese Peasant:

The Western Media & Its Local Minions

The West, its journalists, its liberal “activists”, its democrat politicians prefer people like the peasants above to stay in the farms where in their imaginations is a Garden of Eden existence. They will campaign for all that, everything, except to put money where they have their mouths.


The Western media are at it again: lynching the Chinaman. Seeing an opening, their crusade against Chinese this time went after their companies and workers. Samples.

First, headline from AllVoices, which is akin to Malaysiakini’s online Citizen Journalism:

Chinese factory Worker Dies Making Iphone (sic)

Second, at Slate, the so-called “liberal” magazine from America, which has this:

The iPad Suicides

Then its Farhad Manjoo (here’s photo of the kid) prods his reader to:

… blame yourself for all those deaths at the Chinese electronics factory…. If you’ve got an iPod, iPhone, iPad, Mac Mini, Xbox, Wii, or one of a number of generic PCs, it’s likely your gadget was made at Foxconn.

Next, at Der Spiegel, the anti-Chinese magazine with a proclivity for exporting German fascism. It calls Foxconn a “Suicide Factory” and linked that to its working conditions:

Hundreds of thousands of people live and work at a Foxconn factory complex in southern China, in what critics say are sweat-shop conditions.

Inventing, you see, is easy – just sit down and type away your prejudices. Der Spiegel’s fascist reporter Wieland Wagner (see bottom passage) took advantage of Foxconn’s hospitality and reception organised to try help dispel the point of sweat-shop conditions. Wagner came out, then wrote this:

Liu Kun, 40, who calls himself the director of media relations, goes around in a sweat-soaked shirt. He avoids the word “factory,” preferring the word “campus” — as if Foxconn were a university. In a battery-driven golf cart — steered by Chen Hongfang, second in command at the company union, which is controlled by the Communist Party — Liu shows a visitor around the palm-lined streets.

The Western media aren’t interested and is equally incompetent in producing hard facts. All over Der Spiegel is plain verbiage. What one gets therefore is a morality tale, the way they are spun at Malaysiakini and Malaysian Insider with “views that matter” produced by Josh Hong and Nathaniel Tan et al.

Brendan O’Neill at the Spiked! (from which the top headline is taken) was willing to stick his neck out against the White man hysteria and the tirade of Sinophobia. And that with just plain numbers:

The problem with these arguments is that they are built on dodgy facts and even dodgier politics. It is just not accurate to say that there has been a particularly weird spate of suicides at Foxconn. It is worth bearing in mind that Foxconn’s Longhua factory employs somewhere between 300,000 and 400,000 people (that is, it is more populous than the British cities of Nottingham, Belfast and Newcastle). [For the record, Foxconn employs more than 800,000 China-wide.] And according to the most recent figures from the World Health Organisation, the suicide rate in China is 13 males and 14.8 females per 100,000 of the population. This means that, technically, it is rarer for a worker at Foxconn to commit suicide than it is for a Chinese person who doesn’t work at Foxconn: one might expect there to be somewhere between 39 and 52 suicides amongst Foxconn’s vast male and female workforce in Longhua over the course of the year, in keeping with the national average rate, or roughly 20 suicides in the five months of the year so far. There have been 12. As one of the very few critics of the ‘iPad suicides’ hysteria has pointed out, perhaps a little bit glibly, ‘Working at Foxconn dramatically reduces people’s risk of suicide!’

What is really driving the ‘iPad suicides’ story is the desire to create a cheap moralism in which the allegedly greedy behaviour of mainly Western consumers is held directly responsible for the living conditions of people ‘over there’. It is an updated, secular version of what Catholics used to say to children who didn’t eat their dinner or who demanded Nike trainers: ‘Think of the little black babies who have nothing…’

Against the wave of Western racism – kicking the Chinaman at every opportunity – is China’s media voice to the Western world. The Global Times alone pleaded, asking for neither sympathy not condemnation but simply, understanding:

The lack of empathy is evidenced in the coverage of the latest horrendous event of the suicides of some Chinese workers at Foxconn.

Many foreigners, along with some Chinese, jumped at the conclusion to criticize the horrible working conditions at some of the manufacturing industry in China, especially those at Foxconn. They issued harsh words of criticism that put the blame for the suicide of workers on the shoulders of the management of Foxconn.

But they fail to grasp the fact that perseverance and the ability to deal with the tedious challenges of life helped the Chinese civilization to survive for thousands of years. Hope and aspiration are the driving forces behind the developing Chinese economy.

They ignore the fact that China is a developing country. Decades ago, many Chinese people had to struggle for survival, and could barely scratch a subsistence existence. So they believe that finding a job, whatever it involves, is better than sitting at home sulking.

Most of the workers at Foxconn are migrant laborers that come from small villages … still suffering from poverty and a big gap between the urban and rural areas, which prompt many rural inhabitants to sell their land and migrate to big cities searching for a better life. One must admire them for the courage to relocate to a new environment….

And that could have only been written by someone who truly understood the Chinese, one Thabet Hassan, a Canadian Egyptian poet and educator in Hubei.

Der Spiegel’s gweilo reporters get paid RMB 1,300 a day, including Sundays, RMB 39,000 a month, just for talking inside air-conditioned rooms – yes, nothing else, just talk. So they say you work in a sweat shop: Go back then to the farm, work the plough; no sweat there?

And they just took that photograph of you for free that they then sell to other magazines and newspapers, each for a one-time use at RMB 50,000. Now you know how much to ask for when Der Spiegel wants an interview – or a photo. All cash upfront in RMB, no cheque, no Visa; that’s a human right. No money, no photo, no interview; after that Wieland Wagner (which, BTW, is a Nazi name) can write anything that suits him.


Song of the Shepherd Girl

Chunjie Letter

  Malaysia’s Year of Hope

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Dear Syed Akbar Ali,

Thank you for your chunjie wishes. We don’t see much of it these days, and one day it might even be haram. We return your greetings from our motherland. The top image above was taken from the woollen embroidery on a blanket illustrating a family returning home; below it is the modern method, and notice that the man is missing. (Why that’s so is a story for another time.) Spring New Year travel in China is quite a challenge but, considering the mammoth task of transporting more than 600 million in under one week it is astonishing the system works. We, the Chinese, can be super efficient once we put our minds to the task.

There is another enduring quality of Chinese society: it is secular-humanism and this has changed little since the days of Zhou dynasty (1045 – 256BC) from when it had evolved and strung together from various strands of Chinese thought, Daoism included. Most of the credit is given to two persons you might have heard of, Confucius and Mencius, synthesizing those ideas that pre-dated them. Below is an example of those ideas as expressed by Su Dongpo 苏東坡 or 蘇東坡 (1037-1101), a regional and high ranking Song era official writing during the Chinese new year (David Hinton translation):

On New Year’s Eve I should be home early,

but this office full of business keeps me.

Writing-brush in hand, hiding my tears,

I face all these bound prisoners, helpless

little people scrambling for food, snared

in the law’s net, and no reason for shame.

I’m no different: adoring a meager salary,

I follow orders, losing my chance to live

quiet and far away. No telling who’s noble,

who vile: we’re all just angling for a meal.

Could I free them for the holiday at least?

I brood in shame before ancients who did.

Note the last line: he speaks of ‘shame before the ancients’, to whom we, the Chinese, measure our conduct, behavior, even thoughts, to those of our forefathers and their ethical standards. It also says that, by the time of Su Dongpo, humanism was already mainstream and had deeply entrenched itself in the Chinese soul, passed on in large part by family instructions, social etiquette, literature, the arts and, more formally, education and ritual pratices and rites. Chunjie or, as you say it, the Chinese New Year is a part embodiment of these ritual and rites. (Think of the family reunion dinner and the giving of lishi, the latter of which was once abused by that fella named Ibrahim Ali. Remember his white angpows? It is to the credit of this humanism that the Chinese don’t cut off his head for the insult.)

But, Chinese culture is not for export unlike, say, Arabian Islam or Anglo-Saxon Christianity. In spite of the universal quality of its ethics, the culture tended to instruct and goad the Chinese towards insularity, that is, looking within ourselves for ‘salvation’ (for the lack of a better word). One might be tempted to call it a kind of pre-modern selfie which has given the Malays and Anglophiles (Petra Kamarudin, Lisa Ng, for example) in Malaysia the completely erroneous impression that the Chinese are an insular people, only on the lookout for themselves.

Another, more accurate way, to see Chinese society is, as a web of concentric circles radiating from its core an individual, not alone but situated within the immediate family then extending to other relatives, clan, village, town and finally the country. There are no borders of conduct, nor does an individual or group stand independent from the rest. In the strands of the web — the strands representing the ethics — each is entwined and so affects the other.

Once we picture Chinese society within a larger (say, Malaysian) web of social organisation, you can then place the Malay person, or a mamak such as yourself, at any point in the series of concentric circles. Relationships are formed out of the ethical strands of the web’s organisation which, and this must be said, is hierarchical;  a father-and-son relationship is closer than that of a person-friend. But in this Chinese world, classes of people disappear, race, religion, sect, economic and social standing, with which the West had organised itself and had its beginnings. In the Sino-Confucian view, it is difficult to view the Malay neighbor as a member of another, distinct or even alien group if — and this is the caveat — the neighbor does not insist on being a separate class, especially a class to itself or above others (PAS Above All). Unfortunately, that’s how Malaysian politics has organised its citizenry, very Western and very tribal (Islamic) at the same time.

It is on the issue of the Malays taking a segregated pathway — you mean Islamification, becoming like Pakistan — that has occupied your recent postings, namely How We Are Becoming Stupid — Just Like Pakistan and Destroying Capacity. Your prognosis is dire, but one needs to be circumscribed; the fact that Malaysia isn’t Pakistan although both have emerged as political entities independent of British colonialism at the nearly the same time says something about the strength of Malay society and undercurrent of its resistance to the goals of PAS and some bigots within Umno. Others, Jebat for example, might reject your pessimism and particularly in absolving PAS of its role in undermining and in stifling Malay progress with its brand of Arabian Islam. For evidence contrary to your assertion, look at Kelantan.

Mostly, however, you blame Anwar Ibrahim beginning from around 1983 but he couldn’t have gone far with his towelhead ideological Islam without Mahathir Mohamad’s acquiescence. Mahathir gave Anwar the tools of the state to act, hence the power of influence, so he must account of that horrendous mistake, the kind of mistake Muhammad Ali Jinnah committed on Pakistan. Like many Malays, there is no reason for the Chinese to cry over the destruction of Anwar which we now see as a repudiation of Mahathir’s ideas and actions from his time as prime minister. How can it be anything else but repudiation once Mahathir and Umno pummel into political oblivion their favorite boy?

But the principled point is not in Anwar’s destruction, or concomitantly Mahathir’s self repudiation. It is how best way to go forward for both the Malays and Malaysia, how to unravel the laws and practices that Anwar’s towelhead ideas have entrenched into the system? You rightly mentioned that nobody, not even the Eminent 25 Malays, now dare to dismantle Syariah and Najib Razak has shown his spinelessness by acting to the contrary, stepping on the Islamic gas pedal instead. Malays dare not even pet their poodles in public view and Malay girls can’t even get a friendly, innocent hug from their favorite pop star; so one can empathize with your prognosis, for, indeed, the situation seems hopeless.

We, the Chinese, like to think that what man makes, he can un-make. And the way to do it is to lift up elements of Chinese culture in Malaysian officialdom, in the consciousness of our peoples, openly adopting it in public discourse, media especially. Chinese-ness is not a proselytizing creed (and forget about that imbecile Lim Kit Siang and the DAP); the Chinese is a vital part of Malaysia, its history and its development so there is no need to apologize its official adoption. It will especially countermand, counteract, the effects PAS and Anwar had left behind, pulling Malay consciousness in another, more humane direction.

So, we’ll leave it at that…. Salam.



Sabariah Abdullah of the Islamic Information and Services Foundation.

Dear Sabariah:

Salam, and thank you for the Foundation’s free offer of the Quran — 1 million copies is it? — to the Chinese, Indian and the other infidels. We have to respectfully decline to accept your generosity, which as you imply was made in all ‘honesty’ for the purpose of interfaith understand. But, really….

You’ve to forgive us, in particular the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBHST) for responding to your offer with so much cynicism.

But, Buddhists and Daoists have no reason to be cynical; they are not raised nor taught to be suspicious of the world out there. The world is as it is, so they make no attempts to fundamentally change the world. They are Stoics not theists; salvation is not a matter of faith nor belief but of individual abstinence, a removal from the world, with or without God in it.

As for Christians, that’s another story. Imagine: Once you turn a million infidels into Muslims, where does that leave Christianity? They, too, want our souls just as you might. So there is reason to believe it was the Christians who were behind that cynical response to your offer, especially with the assertion that your project is an underhand tactic to convert infidels. Why? Because proselytization is a lynchpin of Christianity, and they make no bones about it so it isn’t just Malays and Muslims who have to endure their practices but also, above all, the Chinese and Indians.

Within the MCCBHST, the Hindus have on numerous occasions raised this problem with the Church. Families have broken apart. Kids converted to Christianity (the Assembly of God churches in particular) have look down their noses at their parents as ‘sinners'; Hinduism is considered voodoo (even Islamists say that); their parents are regarded, condescendingly, as heathens and pagans; and the children denounce them as idolaters. The impact has been endemic.

Within your ummah, there is probably the same thinking. PAS mullahs, for instance, have openly stated that the Chinese and Indian — since they are godless — are ripe for the conversion, living as they are in a sea of Muslims who, in their turn, have the backing of law and numerous state apparatus such as your foundation and your free Quran.

You can therefore see why the MCCBHST should be suspicious of your offer: first it is the Christians and now you. More than the others, it is Christians who most distrust your offer — they themselves being guilty of going about wrecking havoc on other people’s lives — and so will want to instigate people against your project, if necessary, using the offices of the MCCBHST. Very likely they even wrote the statement.

As pagans (that is, pagans to both Christians and Muslims) we ask ourselves: what have we done to earn your generous offer? Indeed, why do you want us to understand Islam when your religion and the Malaysian government do next to nothing to encourage you to understand us?

Over the decades — no, centuries — we, the Pagans and the Muslims, have left each other alone. As Pagans we have our own schools, our own language and to practise our way of life, causing neither you nor your ummah any distress nor come in any way of your beliefs. (One cannot say this about the like of Hannah Yeoh, but then they are not pagans.) Yet… some Muslims have, in the name of Islam, forcibly taken our children from us, converted them, then abducted our parents, even the dead ones. As if that’s not enough, Malays now complain that the independence of the Chinese is a cause of ‘disunity’, whatever that is, and demand to close down our schools. Then they want us to leave Malaysia and tens of thousands have done so already. Apa lagi Melayu mahu?

You made specific mention of the Bible in hotel rooms as justification for the Quran’s free distribution, without however asking, who owns those hotels and those bibles. You don’t ask: Who are the people laying down those bibles which you also see as a surreptitious attempt to convert Malays? Rather, your thinking is this, if Christians can do it to Muslims and Malays you are therefore entitled to do it to others.

Your beef, then, is with Christians. That being so, why pick on the Chinese and Indian infidels? What have we done to you? You may want to save our souls, and so, too, the Christians. But no thanks. We’d happily end up in hell but that’s none of your business.

Let us, the pagan Chinese, suggest you therefore go after the Christians. Once you try to proselytize the way Christians and white people have done before, you are not honoring our unwritten code of conduct, which is something Malays have also long, long ago pined after. It is to leave each other alone.

If, however, you go down the path taken by Christians, brandishing the Quran like it were the Bible, then you are inviting trouble. Its consequences affect not just pagans but Muslims as well. Imagine the Christian returning a copy of the Quran to the Muslim and beneath it is the Bible, for free. They will say, and with some justification: you do it us, we do it to you. What then? Prosecute the Christian?

And pray tell, what shall the Pagans do with your Quran? Some might read it, even comprehend its message, and come away impressed, but many others might not understand. They might put it away, unread. Or, they might throw it out with the trash and if this is found by a municipal garbage worker who happens to be Muslim, what then? Prosecute the Chinese for ‘defiling’ your book? In some village, where people have other, more pressing worries with life and with a livelihood than to think about god, the pages from the Quran could be torn up and used to wrap fish sold in the market. Or it might be use for lighting fire beneath the pot? What then? Prosecute the poor pagan woman because she didn’t know better?

Christians proselytizing endlessly are an abominable lot; yet, you’ve become exactly like them. But Christians don’t have state backing and for this we, the Pagans, are thankful. For two thousand years they have tried to convert the Chinese and failed; why should the Chinese now change their mind and pray to a man carved out of wood? So they cannot go far. However, it looks like you could since your Islam has legal and constitutional backing. But why do our souls bother you so much. You claim interfaith understanding as justification, yet everything carried out on those grounds tend only to be one way. For example, our children are taught Islam but when was the last time a Malay was taught Hinduism or Buddhism which was the religion of your forebears before Islam’s arrival?

Now, we, the Chinese, ask that you desist in your project. Immediately. Forget your justifications; forget the law. If getting even with Christians is your intent, we suggest you go after Christians. We don’t care what you do with them, convert them, bury them in a tonne of Quran books, jail them, behead them, eat them, whatever. But if you deign to come after us, we say, you’ll fail. If, in waving the Sedition Act, it is apology that you want, then get it from the Bishop or from Hannah Yeoh. We, as Pagans, have given no offense to anybody; it has always been the other way around and we keep silent. But to use us, Pagans, so as to get back at Christians we then say this to you, Sabariah: Fuck off.


For Sabariah:

A Justice in Malaysia from Anhui

South west of Shanghai, sitting along the tributaries of the Yangtze River, the province of Anhui rarely see snow. Daily winter temperature is usually below 10 degrees C. But it snowed late last month in January in Hefei, capital of Anhui. In recent days the day time temperature was 5-7 degree despite a blazing sun and a cloudless sky.

Luzhou is in the outskirts of Hefei, hemmed in by forested mountains. It was here in these mountains Bao Zheng was born, AD 999, died 1062 (pic below; family name Bao , given name Zheng popularly know today as Justice Bao, translated from the hanzi 包青天 Bao Chingtian).

This was the Song era when a highly legalistic system of law and justice, founded on a set curriculum, was already in place and widely in use. The Malay word then didn’t exist; the ancestors of Zul Fahmi Bahrudin were probably living in jungle trees, their groins covered in attap leaves, never their aurat covered, surviving on guavas and eating the flesh of captured monkeys, and the only power of a so-called sultan belonged to some men who possessed the biggest count of wildpigs, having no horses nor palace of gold, nor fine silk nor jade cutlery; and America was not yet invaded and populated by white people; Europe was a region of warring tribes who believed the earth was flat, the sun went around it, and they bowed and prayed to a man they call Jesus carved out of wood; and Europeans hadn’t yet learned to use gunpowder nor celebrate the new year with firecrackers and fireworks.

Bao Zheng grew up then in a vastly different set of circumstances, clearly more advanced – and civilized – than that Zul Fahmi could comprehend, even today. But, Bao Zheng’s mother would collect and sell firewood from the nearby cypress and pine forests to help finance the boy’s education, who eventually passed the jinshi, the highest level in a nine-tier civil service examination system set by the palace (the curriculum included Confucian text from the classical period). This point is significant for two reasons:

  • (a) although legalism had triumphed over Confucian humanism in matters of justice; law, no matter how severe, had incorporated Confucian ethics into it and especially relied on the humanity and discretion of the individual magistrates or officers to inflict punishment; and,
  • (b) all jinshi-level civilian, government employees – and they aren’t many – oversaw the lower rung officers but report direct and were answerable only to the emperor. Hence they carry with them, on their persons, at all times, one of the most important instruments of their authority, the palace seal such as the one pictured immediately below. (Another instrument is the Chinese sword, the skilled use of which must be passed by physical examination.)

包拯: 包公/包青天

Justice Bao in Malaysia

So for good reasons, and reinforced by Confucianism, the Chinese (not Anglophiles though) have an enduring habit of revering their historical figures such as Bao Zheng, some of who are fictionalized and  their character enlarged in drama, opera, and writings, poetry mostly. All of which, accumulated, serves the Chinese consciousness so that, over time, these figures contribute to the Chinese ethical foundations in a dynamic way. You can see why Mandarin study, hanzi, is vital to the Chinese being.

A principal means of honoring a person such as Justice Bao is to set up a memorial. This not only makes concrete but also brings him very close to the public, the commoners. Such acts of remembering are done, not by the government (not even in China), but by common people, mountain villagers, fishing folk, and so on — further evidence that puts a lie to the Malay and Anglophile words that the Chinese are apathetic to public affairs. In the Anglophile world, a memorial is called a temple with the connotation that a person like Justice Bao was being deified like he were a god, good in all respects. This is false. Justice Bao is remembered (in Klang, for example; see picture of his memorial below) not for his person but for the embodiment of two basic ideas:

  • One, law is power. In the Anglophone world one is taught to believe that law should be tempered with mercy, which is the extent of power, and this gives a judge too much individual discretion. In the Chinese world, law is better exercised when just, which is the extent of his humanity, and this is derived from the judge’s ethical training. In another, popular phrasing: man does not serve law but law serves man.
  • The second idea flows from the first: rule of law is not absolute. Because it is always in conflict with man, that is, people, rule of law raises a problem that is bound to afflict a magistrate or official as he goes about the business of the emperor (in modern times, the state). It is how to put a leash on law. And the answer is simply this: in applying law, it should be used to weigh the merits of the palace officer. Flipped around, the law is used to judge the judge, even the complainant. That’s justice.

Imperial China was so legalistic, rule of law so prevalent, that it is an offense to kill a buffalo because it is classified as a ‘beast of burden’. In one case brought before Bao, somebody had cut off the tongue of a buffalo which would render it unable to feed and, hence, die eventually (recall that killing it is unlawful). Bao suggested to its owner, the farmer, to slaughter the buffalo for meat. (Yes, kill it.) Another man then turned up to complain to Bao that the farmer had broken the law for killing that particular animal. How did the complainant know it had no tongue? The man confessed.

In that instance, law serves not to punish nor to rule over conduct but to ferret out the truth.

Bao understood the limitations of law and its uses in governance and so wrote the following, as the Chinese do in the highly metaphorical language of the Mandarin hanzi:

秀幹終成棟  xiù gàn zhōng chéng dòng — Elegant it may be, a stem is turned into a pillar

精剛不作鉤 jīng gāng bù zuò gōu — So refined steel cannot be bent to make into a hook

How might Justice Bao rule?

The following is a (suggested) written judgment from Justice Bao, if he had presided, and how he might have ruled on Anwar’s case:

Although the complainants are different persons, the defendant Anwar Ibrahim is the same. He is brought before me over the same charge in which he had been accused of before then convicted by one of my fellow Justices 17 years ago. If I find him guilty, I reaffirm the conviction set by my peer and my brother Justice. If I don’t, I’ve denounced him.

Now, to the charge which, precisely, is having ‘carnal intercourse against the order of nature’. I shall not look into what’s meant by carnal intercourse. This is well defined: intercourse through the anus. But what, exactly, is this ‘order of nature’?

Reading his judgment, I find no explanation from my fellow Justice. In the charge against Anwar, intercourse is carnal and against the order of nature not because it is committed with another male but through the anus so that if a complainant is female the same charge applies. Is such an act, therefore, unnatural?

Nature, it seems to suggest, is something natural, the birds soaring in the sky, the snow falling on Tian Shan, the pigs in the sty that eat and procreate daily with their own kind, siblings even. I’ve read that one specie of female scorpion eats the male the moment after copulation. All that is natural and natural to their own.

Unnatural, it seems, is something we don’t know or know enough or outside of our ability to know or see or hear. When people pray to a piece of timber cross with a man tied to it, is that natural? But, what a person believes in can’t be my business, natural or not. So it is with sexual intercourse, as well, committed in any way. There is just the word of the complainant who said it happened, and there’s the word of the defendant who said it didn’t. One man’s word against another.

In such a situation, I’m asked to decide on the impossible: first to decide what’s natural and unnatural and then to decide who speaks rightly the truth of the act when there are no other person who is a witness.

If the act was forced, the charge must be rape. If, however, the charge is sodomy, the complainant Saiful must presume the act is unnatural, and this leads me back to the same dilemma, which is to consider what’s natural, whether between man and man or between man and woman it doesn’t matter, and decide if Saiful’s complaint is indeed against the order of nature.

This is like asking to decide, is lying against the order of human nature? Yet, if something exists, whether it may be lying or carnal intercourse, or pigs with sibling pigs, or female with male scorpion, then that is nature. Unnatural is that which exists not. But Saiful was there; he knew, he took part in it.

I, Justice Bao, is therefore unable to rule if there has been carnal intercourse at all and, if there was any, whether such an act is indeed against the order of nature. Failing this, the defendant Anwar is to be set free and the complainant Saiful is to receive 100 lashes for bringing disrepute to the law by his complaint, because repute is the order of nature between subject and our Emperor.

Guards! Take him!



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